Ortygia, a small island off the coast of Syracuse, Sicily, Italy
The ancient heart of Syracuse
This bird's-eye view lets us take in the charms of Ortygia, a small island just offshore from Syracuse, on Sicily’s east coast. Ortygia is considered Syracuse's ‘old town’ and the historical heart of the city. A narrow channel separates the island from Syracuse and two bridges connect Ortygia to mainland Sicily. Ancient Greeks first colonised this island in the 8th century BCE, and the town is brimming with 2,700 years of history. Walk Ortygia’s web of narrow streets and you’ll see Greek and Roman ruins, medieval Norman buildings and examples of Baroque architecture as well.
In one of the Homeric Hymns -a collection of anonymous Greek hymns celebrating individual gods - the goddess Leto stops at Ortygia to give birth to her twins, Artemis and Apollo. Visitors today can pay homage to the mythology with a visit to the Temple of Apollo, which dates from the 6th century BCE, making it the oldest Doric temple in Sicily. But for some, the most magnificent attraction to Ortygia is the cerulean Mediterranean Sea, which surrounds the island in a shimmery blue.